February 18, 2013 by Made In Brum
The visit of Sheffield Wednesday to St. Andrews this week sent The Ex-Files back to the early 2000s, to look at the career of journeyman midfielder Danny Sonner. The long-haired Northern Irishman never spent more than two seasons at one club in his 18 year career, and turned out for 14 different teams across England and Germany.
Sonner began his professional career at Burnley in 1991, only making 6 appearances in his two seasons at Turf Moor, and was sent on loan to Bury for a brief spell in November 1992. Little success in the English leagues saw the midfielder move to Germany, where he spent three seasons playing in the lower leagues for Köln, BFC Preussen, and FC Erzgebirge. His performances in Germany caught the attention of Ipswich Town’s scouting network, which led George Burley to bring him to Portman Road for the 1996/97 season, and Sonner made 53 league appearances and scored 3 goals in his time there. 1997 also saw his first call up to the Northern Ireland squad, and he made his debut in a 1-0 defeat to Albania.
Danny Wilson signed Sonner for Sheffield Wednesday in October 1998 for a fee around £75,000, and the midfielder spent the next two seasons playing for the Owls in the Premier League. The 1998/99 season saw Wednesday finish 12th in the league, with Sonner playing 26 games. The midfielder was part of the team that suffered an 8-0 thumping to Newcastle in September 1999, and Wednesday’s form declined over the 1999/00 season, ending up in 19th place.
Relegation to the First Division saw Sonner move to Trevor Francis’ Birmingham on a free transfer, and he was part of the starting line-up in Blues’ Worthington Cup Final defeat to Liverpool in 2001, being substituted for Bryan Hughes in the 71st minute. In all competitions, the Northern Irishman made 38 appearances, including the team’s Play-Off Semi-Final defeat at Preston North End, where he, Michael Johnson, and Francis were disciplined by the FA for their conduct, as the former Blues boss led his team off the pitch before the penalty shootout. Sonner was fined £1,000 for use of foul and abusive language after the incident.
Sonner played his last game for Blues in November 2001, in which he was sent off for a bad tackle on West Bromwich Albion’s Phil Gilchrist. Steve Bruce became manager soon after, and Sonner never made it back in to a match day squad.
After being released in the summer of 2002, Sonner spent the next three seasons at Walsall, Nottingham Forest, and Peterborough, making 67 appearances in total, and joined Port Vale in 2005, where he played the more games than he had for any other club. He became a fan favourite in his time at Vale Park, but a contract spat in 2007 saw him re-join Walsall for a brief stint. He finished his career at Wrexham, making 9 appearances and scoring a single goal at the end of the 2007/08 season.
A tough-tackling midfielder, Sonner earned a reputation for his often fiery temperament, and received a high number of red cards throughout his career. He represented Northern Ireland 13 times, but his greatest honour came in his time at Blues, securing his Worthington Cup runners-up medal in 2001.
By Gregg Collett